By John Youhanes Magok
September 16th 2018 (Nyamilepedia) – South Sudan is Africa’s newest country that gained her independence from Sudan to stand on her feet in July 2011 after a devastating civil war that lasted for more than four decades starting from August 1955.
The population of this landlocked country, according to the 2008 population census, is estimated to be 12 millions although no wider and verified census was carried out for the last ten years during the post-independent era. A vast majority of these demography are youth who, reportedly, constitutes 70% of the total population of the country; despite the complete absent of constitutional definition of youth yet other institutions and documentations refer to youth as being between 15 – 35 years old.
The young state plunged into crisis in December 2013 amid power struggle among the SPLM, the fractured ruling party, elites leading to a brutal civil war that year. In such devastation, young people turned to be the actors, executing the orders of their military and political leaders based on tribes. The war relocate itself to traditional local norms that youth are there to protect village, community from external aggression, prevent cattle ride and to perform activities characterized to fit the men muscular nature.
This gave the political figures a niche in pushing youth to engage in the conflicts with the assumptions that politicians’ agendas are in the interest of the community, however, in reality, the agendas are rather towards seeking political power and commercialization of personal or group ideology.
These populists generation through the five years continuous conflicts have developed a phenomena of being a war-entrepreneurs, hates preachers on social media and disaster mercenaries. A minimal number of youth are just handpicked by the political institutions to speak in the political tone of their entity and never represent the nations’ youth whereas the great number of youth are serving in front-lines and in nascent army.
The only employment one can ever imagine is to be recruited in the military, be a driver and body guard of elites or eminent politicians. Despite the education some of them have gained, they often wrestle to join the close protection unit of “Beny”, “Kuär-Midiit” or “Zoal Kabiīr” with a mindset that their survival will only be granted if they are surrounding their leaders.
The odd names are literally used by the vast majority of South Sudanese to represent those political elites who have power and wealth; and they are stated in different languages, “Beny” in Dinka dialect, “Kuär-Midiit” in Nuer and “Zoal Kabiīr” in Juba Arabic; all in which mean leader. As a results, the young generation of South Sudan are in illusion identity crisis where one cannot articulate his/her views, future goals and dreams.
The only dream they re-paraphrase is to be general in army, commanding personnel and to be escorted as their role model who they always grant protection. This wrong practice surface because of undefined military structures where elites draw their own military ranking and promote their followers despite the absent of experience, training and the necessary professionalism and sometimes they sought to family alignments.
Therefore, it will not caught you out of surprise to visualize the early nomad youth who only exist to protect their villages, community cohesion and properties with a traditional weapons upgrading to a contemporary armed youth fighting the wars since its inception in 2013.
All these was witnessed by the emergent of ‘Gel-Weng’, ‘White Army’, ‘Monye Miji’, Agwelek and ‘Arrow Boys’ all of which are affiliated to their ethnicity of Dinka, Nuer, Cholo (Shilluk), Latoku and Alzandi respectively. Due to the weak structure of this organizations, the higher level political actors have found advantage to manipulate and turn them into instruments of war based on ethnicity, in their quest for power and control over land and resources.
I compared the young generation of South Sudan to a quote stated by a man without arms and legs known as Nick Vujicic in one of his inspirational speech, he says “…Human must know three things in life; (1) Who are you and what your values is?, (2) What is your purpose here in life? (3) What is your destiny when you done here?” If you don’t know the answer of any of these questions, then you are most disable than Nick. Therefore, education that does not change your thought and mindset is no education at all. Thus, youth of the new nation must redefine the purpose of their existence and create a country where everyone have purpose.
Youth in Peace Process
In rural areas of South Sudan, youth tend to fight violently and elders usually do interfere to quell the conflicts via inter community dialogue. Mostly, decisions are made by local chiefs and leaders, sometimes they opt to isolate some group of youth; not to disrupt the temporary peace treaties and other time their participation is seen without any decision making at any stage because the old folks knows it all and have gone through it.
These were the earlier means of engaging the youth in peace restoration and normalization. Thus, it is an old man arena where young people have no room to showcase their talent, potential and energy to cease the violent.
Alike to the current peace process in which the final peace accord is signed in Ethiopia capital city of Addis Ababa on September 12, 2018 by the main rival foes in the presents of regional leaders and international community whereas the absent of youth is widely visible.
The young generation still has a role to play on the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) particularly in the key areas of security arrangements and dissemination of the peace documents with a clear contents.
It is a right time for the young people to build a mindset of antiwar and regain their dignity and freedom towards a better South Sudan where human right is respected and observed.
Back in 2012, I mockingly stretch that ‘South Sudan is the London of East Africa) whereby then many job seekers from the region and neighboring countries equate their homelands to search for a decent work and business opportunities.
It was a time where One United State Dollar is exchanged with 2.7 South Sudanese Pound (SSP) the strongest currency in the region at that time. Contrary to the current state of wars and conflicts where the exchange rate drawn to unimaginable deflation and youth tend to view guns as the only salary they can possess.
This caused by complete absence of youth-led organizations that advocate for peace, ineffective government institutions representing the youth and malpractice of distributing small arms that sustains destructive conflicts and reduces youth productivity.
The R-ACRSS lack the mechanism of absorbing the young women and men to participate in future peace endeavors or in any transitional government’s arrangement; inclusion of youth should be the top priorities of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) otherwise the war will keep devouring the entire generation of youth in the new nation.
Therefore, for the peace to prevails, youth must be positioned on the paddle wheel of the revitalized agreement and equipped them with the right trainings and empowerment so that they can play a pivotal role in bringing peace to the Republic of South Sudan. Therefore, it is the right time for young people to denounce the “belly politics” in the new nation where greed and thefts are in ultimate peak.
In a nutshell, to grant a successful participation of youth in the Rejuvenated Peace Accord (R-ACRSS), I would like to recommend undeniable facts that all the agreement’s stakeholders should abide by:
- Investing in the South Sudan’s citizens and human rights education providers to aid youth programs and support creation of spaces for exchange and learning that can enhance the meaningful participation of all young people, including vulnerable group, in peace building.
- There is a need to bring the age of governance candidacy to fit the age of youth who are willing to serve the public and preach the terms of the signed agreement.
- The would-be government should jointly work with young people to finalized youth policy in line with international institutions and to develop a long-term national action plans, with the involvement of young people and youth organizations in their design, implementation and evaluation.
- Involvement of youth in conflict prevention process in addition to supporting local initiatives such as awareness-raising campaigns and capacity building to curb the growing communal fights in the country.
- The would-be revised TGoNU should allow youth to tackle racism and discrimination in all its forms, including that based on gender, ethnicity, religion, culture and geographical location that disturbed the social cohesion for the last five years. In short, youth should be the lean in reconciliation and healing process.
- The R-TGoNU should put in place policies and action plans to support and promote emerging and innovative arts and cultural production, while promoting and preserving all art forms in their respective societies. This is to say, the youth entities should be led by young people.
- The would-be R-TGoNU should also support young people working in creative industries, through local structures, investment in training, leadership, management, production and promotion of culture for young people.
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